Children Heard and Seen

Hidden Voices 25: Freddie’s Story

Below is the 25th in a series of blog posts created by adults who have lived experience of parental imprisonment. By sharing these hidden voices, we hope to raise awareness of the impacts of parental imprisonment to inspire immediate change for the children of today.

I’ve been visiting prisons since I was born. My uncle was serving a life sentence and as a baby, I’d go visit him with my Mum. Going to prison was like going to Marks and Spencer – it became a norm for me. My dad was first arrested when I was 2, and again when I was 5 or 6, and again at 19.

He was brought up not knowing any different way to be. He went to detention centers multiple times as a kid. He burgled houses, stole from shops, and stole cars. My uncle, my mum’s brother, my grandad – it was all the same. My family was institutionalised – career criminals. With such a strong institution and not knowing any other life – it was normal in my family. It was insane back then, but that sort of mindset was embedded in all of us.

Rap songs glorify certain parts of prisons and crime, but there is nothing cool about having a parent in prison. For me, it did take some time to come more to terms with it. When I was younger, I wondered why my dad was in prison when he was a good person. I had trauma from the police smashing our windows in and the aggressive event of arrest. I had these tensions that I came to terms with only because I had a strong family unit and a strong community that I could talk to. When I was living abroad and my Dad was in prison, I had friends go to visit him. I had close cousins whose parents were also in prison. We were so close and I just didn’t have the same social stigma around being the child of someone in prison that most kids in that situation have.

I had close cousins, the same age as me, in the same situation. We supported each other and none of us are in a criminal industry. They’re great human beings. We were all neglected when our parents were in prison, but we made it out okay because we were close and created strong bonds. They are all really creative and intelligent and excelling in what they do.

I was lucky with my family unit. It’s far harder for most kids and families than I had it. Even my brother had it harder. He faced more stigma in his school. His teachers treated him like a criminal and said vile things, to the point that he dropped out of school when he was 14.

For many people it’s hard having a parent in prison because they don’t have the same financial means. Like, imagine if you can’t afford to drive to go to the prison – say from Southampton or Dover to go get a ferry to a prison in the Isle of Wight. And then you have to make it to the prison from the Isle of Wight. They have to take their kid out of school for the whole day and then the kid has to miss out on their education. What if they don’t have a car? What if they can’t afford the petrol? Then the kid just misses out on being around their parent. There are so many negotiations carers or parents have to make and so many avenues as to how this affects kids in the long run – all for something they didn’t do. The kid didn’t do it, but it affects them most.

Some kids never reach their full potential because of external circumstances. If you don’t have a strong family unit, or if you can’t afford to visit, your life is so much harder. I was probably the 0.1% in my situation and I want to raise awareness for kids who are losing a relative, missing out on education or a main source of income, for the kids who are going hungry. We need to destigmatize having a parent in prison and get the word out that they are not the decision someone else made.